Australia maintains ban on allowing same-sex couples to marry abroad

The Australian ban on issuing documentation to allow same-sex couples to marry overseas remains in force, despite a positive recommendation from the Senate in 2009.

Speaking to the Australian newspaper Star Observer, the national convener for Australian Marriage Equality (AME) Alex Greenwich said the ban was “mean spirited” and that pro-marriage equality advocates would be fighting it in the courts. “Despite a positive recommendation from the Senate inquiry, no action has been taken and the situation continues to grow worse as more countries have allowed same-sex couples to marry in the meantime,” Mr Greenwich said.

He also spoke of his disappointment over prime minister Julia Gillard’s failure to address the issue: “This is something that Julia Gillard could give the GLBT community while debate is postponed to the ALP national conference. If she wants to take action she can overturn the current policy on issuing documents and follow that Senate inquiry recommendation.”

The Star Observer also reported that a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) told them that Australia’s Marriage Act was the real barrier to providing documentation for same-sex couples. “It is not DFAT policy, but Australian law, which only permits the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade or an Australian Embassy overseas to issue a Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage if the proposed marriage is to be recognised as valid under Australian law,” the spokesman said. “The Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961 defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. Under the Marriage Act, a same-sex union solemnised in a foreign country is not recognised as a marriage.”

Ms Gillard has herself previously stated her belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman. She recently played down rumours that rebel backbench Labour MPs were keen to support a Green Party bill that would give the Federal Parliament powers to override territory laws, meaning gay marriages could potentially take place in the Australian territories. Subsequently however, a group of MPs told ABC news that the implications of the bill were not fully outlined, and that they suspected it was a deliberate “stitch up” by the Labor left and Greens MPs, who do support gay marriage.

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